Be Responsible! – Galatians 6:1-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 1, 2013 AM
As a young boy, I went to work for my Uncle as he took care of my grandmother’s house and garden. I had to weed, water, and take care of a huge garden. It was a daunting task, but he expected a lot out of me and my age did not matter. I found that as I had more responsibilities, my earnings went up as well. I was rewarded for my consistency and willingness to be responsible to do the tasks at hand.
Many Christians give little or no thought to biblical admonitions to live in a responsible manner. In fact, not all believers are responsible Christians. They may not realize all the ramifications of following the Spirit’s guidance in how they live. Perhaps they shield one or more areas of their lives from divine guidance. Perhaps they have never thought about other ways they need to exhibit they are responsible Christians. Other possibilities are they do not know how to meet some expectations; they do not like some expectations; or they are too afraid to try to meet some expectations. Yet God does not exempt any believer from His expectations. Let’s see what Paul teaches us on being responsible.
Paul ended his Spirit-inspired presentation of the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit within believers with an exhortation. He called for the Galatian believers to follow the Spirit’s leadership and avoid destructive attitudes and behavior. We discover him reminding us to be responsible and to…
I. Bear one another’s burdens! (Vv. 6:1-5)
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.”
1. Rather than exhibit destructive actions, Christians are to help one another. Paul calls them “brothers,” emphasizing their spiritual kinship and his warm feeling for them. He gave the example of someone who was “caught in sin.” Those who are “spiritual” are to “restore him gently.” Whatever the nature of one’s sin, spiritual believers are to restore the individual. The Greek term rendered “restore” means to do whatever it takes to bring back the one entrapped by sin. Mature Christians are to help a sinning believer regain spiritual fitness. It is to be done in a gentle spirit rather than a judgmental attitude. However, we are to “watch” ourselves, or we could “be tempted” as well. One way, Paul encouraged, was to “carry each others burdens” because “in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 NIV) Believers are not to consider themselves to be superior to others. Such pride is deceptive: “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Jesus asked, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3 NIV) According to Paul, “Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else!” Believers are to be able to “carry” their own load first! This does not contradict verse 2 because the reference there refers to heavy, crushing, loads (barē) — more than a man could carry without help. In this verse, the Greek “phortion” is used to designate the pack carried by a soldier. It is the “burden” Jesus assigns to His followers, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30 NIV) Christians are to be responsible and bear one another’s burdens!
EXAMPLE: Being responsible Christians includes assisting others with oppressing loads. We can help erring people face what they have done, assure them of our love, and find them meaningful tasks of ministry. We help bear others’ burdens by running errands for caregivers, spending time with lonely people, and giving toward financial needs. We must bear some loads ourselves, such as church ministry roles, family responsibilities, and ultimate accountability to God. We are to bear one another’s burdens!
The Galatian Christians’ lifestyles were to be marked by doing good acts because of their faith in Christ. They were to do good things to others, especially to other believers, and particularly to individuals who taught them about Christianity! In being responsible, Christians are to…
II. Do good! (Vv. 6:6-10)
“Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
1. Paul seems to abruptly change the direction, but in reality, he does not. He is continuing by sharing that in bearing one another’s burdens believers will support those who teach them. They “must share all good things” with those who instruct them. Paul warned believers not to be deceived (literally, to “stop being led astray”), for “God cannot be mocked” without experiencing devastating results. Whatever seeds a person sows will yield a harvest in kind. If you sow sparingly in your time, talent, and treasure with your church or those who instruct you, you’ll reap what you’ve sown. In fact, “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” Believers can choose to sow to their flesh. They can devote themselves and their goods to self-indulgence. If they do, their harvest will be corrupted. Today, people thumb their noses at God when they view salvation as personal liberty to sin freely, presuming on God’s forgiveness. Such an approach calls into serious question the genuineness of their commitment to Christ. Paul’s advice is, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people.” If believers sow to the Spirit and invest themselves and their goods in the Lord—the Spirit will produce the harvest of eternal life in them and the lives of those they touch! And Paul meant not just strangers but “especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” In being responsible, Christians are to do good!
EXAMPLE: Being responsible Christians includes doing “good” to others, especially to other believers. We are to provide financial and other support to all church staff and to express appreciation to Sunday School and other Bible study leaders and teachers. We are to live in the Spirit and to resist becoming slack in doing good. Instead, we are to create and follow through on opportunities to help others. Being responsible means we live good godly lives in the Lord!
In summarizing his letter’s message, Paul condemned the false teachers’ pride. He stressed that believers should boast only about what Jesus accomplished on the cross. Paul reminds us that if we are to live responsibly as believers, we should…
III. Avoid selfish motives! (Vv. 6:11-15)
“See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.”
1. Paul hated spiritual hypocrisy, as every believer should. He writes, “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!” Paul wanted to emphasize to them the two-faced double standard his detractors were trying to force them in doing. “Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised.” He shares what their selfish motives were. First, they wanted to make a good showing in the flesh—to make a good appearance. If they could claim numerous circumcised believers, they could look good and be popular. Second, Paul asserted the real reason these Judaizers’ insisted on circumcision was their desire to avoid persecution for the cross of Christ—that His death alone was sufficient for salvation. This message contradicted the Jews’ system of works-righteousness and thus provoked their wrath, so the Judaizers chose an easier approach. The false teachers’ third selfish motive: They wanted to be able to “boast about” the number of those they could convince to be circumcised. They insisted Gentile converts keep the law, yet the Judaizers did not keep it themselves. Paul willingly told them, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Paul wanted them to understand that “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation!” Only their salvation mattered! We should never seek to win the lost to fill the pews or to add another notch to our salvation belt. Responsible believers avoid selfish motives!
EXAMPLE: Being responsible Christians involves avoiding selfish motives in what we do. At best, our motives are mostly mixed. We really want to be “pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8); we want to have unmixed motives in what we say and do. Praying daily for God’s help and obeying the Spirit will move us toward that goal. Being responsible means avoiding selfish motives!
Paul concluded his letter with a benediction of peace. He also called for others to let him have peace. In being responsible Christians, we are to…
IV. Seek peace! (Vv. 6:16-18)
“Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God. Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.”
1. Paul pronounced a benediction of peace on the Galatian believers. He wanted an absence of conflict among them, and he wanted them to be free from the Judaizers’ pressure. Even more, however, he prayed for their spiritual wholeness. Paul also prayed for God’s mercy on them as well and he included “even to the Israel of God.” Was this a backhanded blessing? I do not think so. I believe Paul wanted all of them, those who were following Christ and those who wanted to turn them back to works of the law, to truly have the peace and mercy of God! In fact, Paul goes out of his way to assert that no one was to cause him trouble. He probably had in mind having to defend his apostleship and the gospel. The phrase “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus” probably refers to actual wounds, such as those he received from being stoned in Lystra during his first missionary journey (Acts 14:19). Depending on the letter’s date, he also could have referred to being beaten (2 Corinthians 6:5; 11:23-25). His battle scars were part of his street “creds” as an apostle and were marks that gave evidence he was Christ’s servant. Paul again called the Galatian believers brothers. In the Greek text the term comes immediately before the word amen as a final declaration of his affection for them. In spite of the extreme difficulty they had caused him, he cared for them as family members in Christ. Then Paul invoked Christ’s grace on their spirit. He closed the letter in much the same manner as he had begun it. Grace is Christ’s generous goodness in giving what people do not deserve. Paul wanted the believers to go on receiving grace. Responsible Christians seek peace.
EXAMPLE: Being responsible Christians includes seeking the peace of Christ for our church, others, and ourselves. This involves avoiding conflict where possible and resolving conflicts that arise. Instead of having a contentious spirit, we are to allow Christ to make us peacemakers. Furthermore, we are to seek spiritual wholeness and well-being for our churches, others, and ourselves by following the Spirit’s leadership. Responsible Christians seek peace.
As responsible believers we are to bear one another’s burdens, do good, avoid selfish motives, and seek peace!
This article is the copyrighted property of Lee Hemen and may not be edited or redistributed without his written permission.